Leaderboard for week of 7-21-2009: Dave Levinthal memorial edition

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 23:16 - by

We’re sad to see another outstanding beatblogger leaving the industry.

It’s been a rough for years for journalism, and many of the top beatbloggers we have been following have left the industry. People like Kent Fischer and Ed Silverman helped pioneer the practice of beatblogging, but now they have moved on to new, non-journalism careers. Our first leaderboard member this week, Dave Levinthal, was inspired by Kent Fischer and modeled his beatblog after his.

But Levinthal like his inspiration has left journalism.

Dave Levinthal | The Dallas Morning News

Jon Ortiz | Sacramento Bee

  • Ortiz is taking his link journalism to the next level by incorporating Publish2 into his work flow. This will allow his users to submit their own links to interesting content from around the Web. Together, their link journalism should be very good.
  • Ortiz started a Publish2 group for news from around the Web related to state workers.  The beauty of a Publish2 group is that Ortiz can allow users of his blog, state workers and other knowledgeable people into his group. Publish2 has a verification process that keeps marketers and spammers out, and that’s a big reason why we like Publis2 for link journalism, as opposed to sites like Delicious. Ortiz can hand select who he wants to let into his Publish2 group, which should help him get the most out of his link journalism efforts.
  • One of the things that Ortiz is doing with his link journalism is linking to state worker-related news that isn’t just about Californian state workers. This will allow Ortiz to showcase state workers issue from around the country and compare those to issues facing state workers in California. Ortiz is one of the best reporters on state government in California, but the only way he could tell the larger story of state employees across the country is by linking to the best.

Stimulus Spot Check | ProPublica

  • ProPublic was nominated by Ryan Sholin, who said this about the Stimulus Spot Check project, “I’m moderately fascinated by ProPublica’s crowdsourcing process (and platform) for listing, assigning, and gathering information on local stimulus projects.”
  • The stimulus is a massive bill with billions of dollars being spent all over the country. Crowdsourcing is the most logical way to track how stimulus spending is going. ProPublica’s Stimulus Spot Check is an interesting case study into how effective crowdsourcing can be. Perhaps more importantly, this project is a great case study into how to build and manage large-scale crowdsourcing efforts.
  • ProPublica is looking for users to “help us figure out the status of these projects — whether the project has been started or has been completed, what company got the contract, and how many jobs the company says it retained or created for its stimulus contract. Everyone who contributes will be credited in our story.”
  • The project is very young and there aren’t many results yet, but this is a massive crowdsourcing project worth keeping an eye on. As resources continue to be cut at traditional news organizations, harnessing the wisdom and time of the crowd will continue to be more and more important.

Leaderboard for week of 7-13-2009: Live tweet edition

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 16:26 - by

This week’s Leaderboard focuses on live tweeting, the cousin of live blogging.

In many ways, live tweeting is almost the same as live blogging with a service like CoveritLive. But there are differences. First, Twitter is more open and much easier to discover.

People need to know about a CoveritLive live blog ahead of time, but via #hashtags, retweets and @replies, more and more people can discover a journalist live tweeting.

There are negatives from live tweeting, such as having tweets get lost in a stream of other people’s tweets. This can be rectified by embedding a Twitter feed onto a blog or other Web site.

In the end, however, both live tweeting and live blogging offer real promise for journalists and provide a new level of coverage for users.

Tracie Mauriello | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Mauriello is nominated for her excellent live tweeting of “bonusgate,” a public corruption investigation in Pa. Her fellow reporters in Harrisburg retweeted her excellent work all day long and even relied on her to provide blow-by-blow details of a hearing on the investigation.
  • More than 100 lawmakers and staffers from the general assembly were subpoenaed to testify for the defense in this public corruption investigation.
  • Mauriello posted what amounts to a day-long account, all on twitter, of a hearing on the investigation. She did this all day long and didn’t stop at any point. It amounts to an interpretive transcript.
  • Fellow political reporter Alex Roarty said, “It’s how everybody in the Pa. political community is getting there news from [the hearing].”
  • Citizens interested in learning more about this hearing were also treated to a live, interactive transcript of this event. Something like this wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago.

Nick Martin | Heat City

  • This non-profit startup focuses on hard news and public interest journalism in the Phoenix area. We especially like the use of social media for soliciting tips. Editor Nick Martin is also active on social networks like Twitter.
  • Martin is a very good user of Twitter. He links to interesting stories, solicits tips, interacts with users and more. Too many journalists use their Twitter accounts to just push people to existing content. Martin’s Twitter account offers additional value for fans of Heat City.
  • Martin also created a second Twitter account, @SerialShooter, to live tweet from trial of an accused serial shooter.
  • Martin has Google ads and a tip jar on the site to support his efforts. It remains to be seen how Heat City will be received by the community — especially those who might send in donations — but Martin has several great examples of how to mix new and social media with public interest journalism.

Ledger Live | The Star-Ledger

  • Over the past year this video show from The Star-Ledger has gone from a more traditional show to a show that feels more like a video blog. Users have reacted to the change and the show has become more popular. Many news orgs have jumped head first into video, often hitting their heads at the shallow end of the pool.
  • Ledger Live was always an interesting take on a daily news show with a more casual style, but even that wasn’t enough for Web users. People have different expectations for video on the Web, and broadcast standards don’t cut it. Plus, young users are often turned off by network news-style video shows.
  • The Nieman Lab reports that the changes were brought about by the Ledger beginning to understand how people consume video: “The show used to broadcast live at noon, but few viewers remembered to pull up the live stream on the newspaper’s schedule. Others didn’t understand they could watch past episodes on demand. Over time, the newspaper found that the Ledger Live audience was not particularly interested in watching a videotaped version of print news, which forced the show to become more topical. Donohue still addresses important news, but not in the way the newspaper does. He’s more dynamic — he even takes calls sometimes — in an effort to let readers and viewers peer into the newsroom.”
  • The videos got shorter and were longer a part of a giant video package, like the news shows of yesterday. People consume video on the Web in bits and chunks, and that is something the new Ledger Live has tapped into. People also like to interact on the Web, and Ledger Live has become more interactive as well.
  • The idea of doing a video show as almost a video blog is an idea to watch. The Star-Ledger has seen a lot of upheaval over the last year, but it is trying some really innovative ideas and experiments.

Leaderboard for week of 6-29-2009: Good link journalism edition

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 23:25 - by

This week’s Leaderboard examines what good curation/link journalism is all about.

Link journalism seems so simple. It just some links and a little text. Not hard, right?

Poor link journalism is incredibly easy to produce, but good link journalism is an art and a science. Good link journalism requires a knowledgeable and well-read curator. The value in link journalism is derived from a knowledgeable curator looking at a myriad of sources and information and distilling down the best of it.

Most people don’t have time to do what a good curator does. Many journalists already consume a lot of content on a daily basis on their beats. They have RSS readers stuffed with feeds.

Curation is a skill that more journalists should pick up. Beat reporters are very knowledgeable about a set topic and already process a lot of information. Why not show users what you’re reading, watching and consuming?

We also examine a few other topics in this week’s Leaderboard, including advocacy journalism and hyperlocal journalism.

The Infrastructurist | Jebediah Reed

  • The Daily Dig continues to be one of our favorite daily link journalism roundups and not just because everyday has a new “edition” like our Leaderboards.
  • What makes good link journalism? It all starts with quality curation. People like Reed monitor a lot of different news sources, agencies, Web sites and saved searches. What makes The Daily Dig good is the fact that Reed links to a variety of different sources and he finds the best infrastructure-related stories. The core value in Reed’s link journalism is derived from him being an expert on the topic, and only someone who spends a lot of time consuming content on a specific topic can be great at link journalism.
  • Good link journalism is also about making the links seem interesting. It’s not enough to just grab headlines and link. A good curator sells you on why a story is worth reading. A good curator gives you a true taste of what is to come and highlights the biggest reason why you should read on. Link journalism is in some ways content marketing by offering succinct summaries.
  • Good link journalism is also interesting. This goes back to good curation, but it’s not enough to just find news worthy stories or content. Rather, a good curator also finds interesting and unique stories. Some content might be mainstream, while other content off the beaten path.

Steve Rawley | PPS Equity

  • PPS Equity offers more than just news about Portland schools; it’s also an advocate for change. And it is starting to seem like good beatbloggers — especially education ones — mix in a bit of advocacy with their journalism. It’s not that they are biased, but rather that they care to see change. For many education reporters, they are covering school districts that are failing. In fact, the American education system isn’t doing so well.
  • Advocacy speaks to readers. Rawley is not advocating on behalf of the teacher’s union or some other vested interest but rather advocating for change. That really resonates with readers, especially with beats like education. Most people deeply interested in education are so interested in the topic because they believe the status quo isn’t working.
  • Rawley is himself a father of two PPS students. Some may think that’s a conflict of interest, but rather it humanizes Rawley to readers. He, like most people reading his blog, has a vested interest in the district himself. He wants change because he, like his readers, believe the district needs improvement.
  • The mission of PPS Equity is to, “inform, advocate and organize, with a goal of equal educational opportunity for all students in Portland Public Schools, regardless of their address, their parent’s wealth, or their race.”
  • What ultimately makes this beatblog work is not just the passionate advocacy, but also the content itself. The blog has newsworthy items and features great discussions in the comments after posts. It’s an all-around strong beatblog.

Plano Blog | The Dallas Morning News

  • This is yet another strong beatblog from The Dallas Morning News. This one is run by Theodore Kim and Matthew Haag. This beatblog is focused on providing local coverage of the city of Plano, Texas.
  • Again this beatblog is patterned after the pioneering work that Kent Fischer did with the DISD Blog. Many of the new beatblogs at the Morning News are trying to capture that same magic that Fischer had. Fischer and the DISD Blog are an excellent blueprint for how to do beatblogging well.
  • Kim said, “By using the blog, we’ve been able to cover much more ground. The small stuff and the big stuff, the chicken dinners and the larger trend stories: We’re finding a place for all of it through regular features such as our daily Morning Jog and Bulletin Board. And people are responding.”
  • The blog is allowing reporters to cover smaller topics. In the era of shrinking newspapers, beatblogs offer an opportunity for increased coverage, instead of diminished coverage due to a lack of space. Also, the Plano Blog is spurring conversations about the area and attracting residents to the Morning News brand.
  • This is a hyperlocal effort of sorts, but instead of developing an entirely separate site ala Loundoun Extra, the Morning News has decided to hand two reporters a blog and tell them to provide in-depth coverage of a single geographic area. This is a less sexy option than other hyperlocal efforts, but early returns suggest it is working. And it’s the kind of effort that can be started in a matter of minutes, rather than months like big projects like Loundoun Extra require. A beatblog like this is a down and dirty way to provide innovative and new journalism to a community.

Leaderboard for week of 6-1-2006: Collaborative podcast edition

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 15:59 - by

This week’s leaderboard focuses on collaboration between news organizations to create new products.

Podcasting is becoming a more popular medium, and more news organizations are partaking in it. Podcasts are often recorded live with a live user chat along side them. Podcasts make both good live interactive events for journalists and users, while also making good mobile content later on.

Collaboration is helping to make podcasts and journalism better. Sometimes one news organization or reporter is not enough to properly cover a story or produce a feature. That’s where collaboration comes in.

We are looking at a few podcasts that would not have been possible if news organizations weren’t willing to collaborate.

Politics As Usual | The Morning Call

  • While this politics podcast is officially hosted by The Morning Call, it is actually a collaboration between three journalists from three different news organizations, from three different mediums. The Morning Call’s John Micek brings the print prospective, while Politics PA’s Alex Roarty brings the Web perspective and Scott Detrow of Public Radio Capital News brings the broadcast perspective.
  • What makes this podcast special? It features three different political reporters from three different news organizations getting together to discuss local Pennsylvanian politics. This is the kind of mash up of news organizations and mediums that we didn’t see a few  years ago. Thankfully this kind of collaboration is becoming more common.
  • This is a lively, fun and informative podcast that helps make local politics more accessible to the average Pa. resident. The three discuss recent political news and what they have been hearing behind the scenes, while also giving their expert opinions on a variety of topics.
  • None of these organizations could do a podcast like this themselves. They simply don’t have enough knowledgeable employees on hand to have a politics round table. By collaborating with other news organizations, they have been able to create a new product that helps serve users.
  • I asked Roarty if he or his bosses were concerned about working with the “competition” and he said the old ways of thinking of other news organizations as competitors no longer apply. “I think the idea is, on the Web, there’s room enough for all of us,” he said.

Previewing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals | Cleveland.com

  • Cleveland.com had a podcast with a beat writers covering the Cavs and Magic for game five of the Eastern Conference Finals. In order to make this happen, Cleveland.com got beat reporters Brian Windhorst from The Plain Dealer and Brian Schmitz from the Orlando Sentinel on the phone together.
  • Cleveland.com’s host asked their opinions on the series up to that point, their opinions on certain calls and situations in the series and their thoughts on the series moving forward. Schmitz and Windhorst are two the most knowledgeable people around about these two teams. Cleveland.com does weekly chats with Windhorst, and he frequently puts his knowledge of the Cavs on display and helps answer reader questions, but adding in an expert on the Orlando Magic took this podcast to a higher level.
  • Not only is this kind of collaboration rare, but getting together around an event like a playoff series is even rarer. But it just makes sense. By working together, they were able to create a better product.
  • Combine this concept with Cleveland.com’s chat room that allows fans to ask questions, and I think you have an absolute winner. Cleveland.com normally has a live chat room during its podcasts where users can ask questions. Since this wasn’t a regularly scheduled podcast there was no chat room.

Why did DISD’s ratings go sky high? | Tawnell Hobbs

  • Hobbs is asking her readers to help her get to the bottom of a story. She is wondering why the DISD is projecting a record number of exemplary and recognized schools. Her readers are helping to get to the bottom of this story. Did students really improve that much or is something else at work here?
  • Users are chiming in, helping to clarify the situation. Some are posting links to district documents as well.
  • The DISD Blog has a lot of district insider’s reading it. They have been a big help to the bloggers covering the beat because they are often able to clarify district policies and provide documents.
  • Not only are a lot of facts, figures and information being posted on this blog post, but there is also a healthy discussion about the standardized tests in question. Are they any good? Is what the state considers “acceptable” really acceptable? This is the kind of thoughtful debate that is possible with a good beatblog and a blogger who is willing to take ownership of the comments on her blog.

Leaderboard for week of 5-25-2009: Innovation with Twitter edition

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 13:41 - by

This week’s Leaderboard features three beatbloggers who use Twitter in innovative ways.

Many journalists complain that more and more is being thrown at them, and that they simply don’t have enough time for everything: stories, posts, tweets, videos, etc. There are ways to integrate social media into journalism, however, that don’t take much time or even make journalists more efficient.

Twitter can simply be a great way to take notes and make them public, for instance.

Michelle De La Rosa | San Antonio Express-News

  • De La Rosa is another strong education beatblogger (a trend is forming with education reporters here).
  • De La Rosa’s tweeting is particularly strong, and she uses Twitter to live blog school board meetings. Using Twitter to live blog provides several advantages for reporters. First, reporters can post live updates for people who may not want to or be able to attend the meeting itself. But perhaps more importantly, live blogging a school board meeting doesn’t really take any extra time. De La Rosa would have to attend any important meetings anyway and take notes. Twitter can be a fantastic way to take notes, while producing a live product at the same time.
  • In fact, many beatbloggers find Twitter to be a great way to take notes. Because each tweet is going live, beatbloggers are forced to make sure their notes are coherent and concise. There were many times when my notes were a big mess (especially the hand written ones). Twitter forces reporters to take good, concise and coherent notes.
  • Many beatbloggers directly copy and paste many of their tweets into blog posts and news stories. Using Twitter to live blog events is one form of new media journalism that isn’t a huge time sink. It can help make reporters more efficient.
  • De La Rosa also contributes to a group education beatblog.

Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle

  • Berger is one of the best at live chats, and we recognize him this week for his chat on the space shuttle Atlantis coming home. Berger and fellow science geeks got together to chat while Atlantis reentered orbit and made its way to Edwards Air Force base.
  • Berger has done a lot of live chats before, but this time he integrated NASA’s official Twitter feed into his chat. Throughout the CoveritLive chat, tweets from NASA updating Atlanta’s progress or providing interesting tidbits would pop up. Messages like “The deorbit burn is complete, and Atalntis&the crew have begun their descent to California!” and “This will be the 53rd shuttle landing at Edwards. The first was STS-1 on April 14, 1981.”
  • CoveritLive now allows Twitter feeds, searches and hashtags to be inserted into live chats. This takes CoveritLive to a whole new level, and makes live chats a lot more interesting and valuable during events like this.
  • CoveritLive recognizes that Twitter integration could get out of control. After all, a lot of people were talking about Atlantis while it was coming home. Just adding every tweet with the #Atlantis hashtag would have been a nightmare. CoveritLive allows chat authors to moderate Twitter content. You can go in and simply select the Twitter content that you want displayed during your live chat.
  • CoveritLive also allows unmoderated content to automatically appear during a live chat. The NASA Twitter feed, for instance, is trustworthy and not updated that often. There is no reason it needs to be moderated.

Andrew C. Revkin | The New York Times

  • Revkin gets this nod again for his great use of linking. His posts are often thorough on their own, but Revkin links to a lot of good outside information. His posts are a jumping off point for delving deeper into a topic. Revkin asked, “Should Major Emitters Focus on the Sun?
  • What really makes this post shine, however, is Revkin’s YouTube slideshow on using solar energy. His slideshow shows several charts and graphs that illustrate how little the U.S. government spends on solar energy research compared to other energy technologies.
  • His post, however, wasn’t just a random question, but rather ties in with this week’s U.S.-led meetings on climate change, known as the Forum on Energy and Climate. Revkin’s knowledgeable users engaged in a spirited back and forth about the merits of different energy technologies in the comments section. Revkin himself entered the fray to respond to one commenter comment on nuclear power (an expert on the subject at that) with, “Interesting thought. It’s important to note, in looking at the graphs showing rich-country investment in energy research, that nuclear (fusion and fission) have long gotten a much larger piece of the R&D pie than solar, so just wondering here if the solar component needs more respect (not that nuclear needs less).”
  • A post like this makes sense considering Revkin’s users. His users are more knowledgeable than him on many topics. Rather than try to teach them about solar energy, he gathers facts and figures and gets his knowledgeable users to debate a topic. Once he gets these knowledgeable people talking, a lot of great information comes out. The comments after Revkin’s posts often look like debates between experts. Revkin can also use the comments section as a place to find new story ideas.
  • Back to the linking aspect of this post. Revkin links to relevant Dot Earth posts from the past, WhiteHouse.Gov documents, Chinese news sources, an AFP story, a YouTube video, a Twitter search, GreenPeace.org and more. His blog post is a wrapper that makes all of these disparate pieces of information feel like one.
  • Revkin’s use of Twitter searches in his blog post is also of note. If people are already talking about a topic, why not link to those thoughts on Twitter?
  • Let’s not forget that this blog post was ultimately created to get people talking. The post title is itself a question. Revkin found some data, created a slideshow, linked to relevant content and put it all together into a coherent post that gets his knowledgeable readers talking about why so little money is spent on solar solar research.

Leaderboard for week of 5-11-2009: No blog required edition

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 21:21 - by

This week’s Leaderboard features three distinct examples of innovation in beat reporting, because there is no one way to innovate when it comes to reporting.

Our first nominee shows that beat reporters don’t need a blog to be social and interact with people. The comments after news stories provide an excellent place for two-way communication and conversations to happen. While the other two nominees spur conversations through beatblogs, the first nominee is bringing two-way communication to his stories.

It’s important to note that there is no one way to go about beatblogging. Beatblogging can happen on a social network like Twitter or on a blog or in the comments after a news story. The keys to beatblogging are two-way communication, accessibility and transparency.

Robert Schoenberger | The Plain Dealer

  • First I need to make it clear that this is a newspaper story, not a blog post. Reporters don’t need a blog to engage in two-way communication. The comments section after their stories will do just fine.
  • Schoenberger wrote a story about UAW rallies in downtown Cleveland, where workers called on Washington to protect GM and Chrysler plants in the area. The story drew heated comments on both sides, because of the contentious nature of this issue. Many commenters don’t believe the auto industry should be singled out for a bailout, while other industries sink.
  • The Plain Dealer recently called on reporters to interact more, and this story shows why interaction can help make a better product. Schoenberger enters the comments and provides additional facts and figures. His presence helped make the comments less volatile, despite this being a topic with passionate people on both sides. Most of all, however, he helped make better journalism by directly responding to claims made by commenters.
  • Some commenters brought up how many foreign cars are actually made in the U.S., including some made in Ohio. Schoenberger stepped in to provide some exact figures, “So far this year, Toyota has imported from Japan about 41 percent of the cars it sells here. Honda imported about 19 percent of its cars (Nissan’s been at about the 20 percent import range for years, but it doesn’t break down its numbers as cleanly).”
  • To another commenter, Schoenberger explained why resale values of Big 3 automakers are lowers, “For years, Ford, GM and Chrysler produced more vehicles than they could profitably sell, and they dumped the rest on the rental fleet market. So, 6-18 months after the rental companies got those cheap cars, they would dump them on the used market. That created a huge supply of slightly used Big Three cars, and as an economist can tell you, when supply goes up, prices go down. Honda especially has protected its resale prices by keeping production in line with demand. That’s why their resale values are better than Toyota’s. On the Big Three side, the companies slashed fleet sales about two years ago, and their residual values are climbing. But it’s going to take years (and an improvement in car sales) to undo the damage.”
  • When you look at this story, and the subsequent comments, you can see how the comments really forwarded the debate along and created a story of its own. The main story itself was about a few small rallies in the Cleveland area. That’s not exactly big news or something that would usually drive a lot of traffic. However, Schoenberger and commenters turned this story into a a larger debate about domestic automakers. That’s really where this story got interesting, and Schoenberger did a big service to PD readers by weighing in with additional facts and figures.

Andrew C. Revkin | The New York Times

  • This is an excellent example of using a blog to tie multiple pieces of content together into a package. In one blog post Revkin links to and embeds content from nytimes.com, NYT blogs, YouTube, books.google.com and Times Topic pages. He takes this disparate content and combines it together to make a post about what happens to garbage and how waste effects rich and poor countries and people differently.
  • This post itself doesn’t include original reporting, but it does two things: It gets people thinking of these desperate pieces of content — many from the Times itself — as a package of like-minded stories, and it gets a conversation going about the subject. Blogs excel at conversation and seemingly simple posts like this can be great conversations starters — and traffic creators.
  • The other thing this post does is bring attention to older content that is still relevant. Not all this content was created the same day, but it was all relevant at the time of the post. Revkin wrote a nice post that tied all the content together and explained why people should care. In doing so, he brought new life to some older NYT content.
  • All the content Revkin linked to told a smaller story, but placed together, it tells a much larger and complete story.

Dave Levinthal | The Dallas Morning News

Leaderboard for week of 5-4-2009: Timing matters

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 13:26 - by

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: timing matters.

When an event happens, a good beat reporter should cover it ASAP. This also might mean retooling plans and launching a new feature sooner than expected. It could mean scheduling an impromptu live chat to discuss a major news event or crisis.

Great timing requires flexibility. The best beatbloggers have it.

Timing, however, goes beyond just flexibility. Two of the beatbloggers below have timely and modern beats that really speak to the times. Would these beats have been possible 20 years ago, before the Web? No.

And even 10 years ago these beats might not have been very popular, but they are today. Beats need to change with the times, and with the Web and cheap and easy-to-deploy technology like blogs, journalists and news orgs can launch new beats in minutes.

Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle

  • Has there been a bigger story lately than swine flu? Berger is a very flexible reporter, and he scheduled an impromptu live chat to discuss swine flu and answer reader questions.
  • Berger answered readers questions on a variety of topics. He provided insightful answers, often linking to official government documents and other Chronicle content on the subject.
  • Berger did an excellent job of A) answering reader questions B) calming people down with his measured advice (unlike many others in the media) and C) doing all of this in a timely manner. A good beatblogger knows when to push other work aside and schedule an impromptu chat about a major story like this. Swine flu may not become the pandemic that some predicted, but Berger’s timely advice was much appreciated by readers.
  • Berger’s ability to be flexible and cover big stories in a variety of formats as they come in is a major reason why he helped the Chronicle be a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. Berger is always up to covering major events with new, innovative techniques. Flexibility is key.

Jebediah Reed | The Infrastructurist

  • This is an overall excellence in beatblogging nod. It’s a mixture of good content with good link journalism on a very timely beat. The Infrastructurist is a beatblog about American’s infrastructure and transportation and how politics intersects each.
  • In this blog post, Reed asks a thought provoking question, “Why Doesn’t The Stimulus Include Money For Painting Roofs And Roads White?” Painting black surfaces like rooftops and parking lots white could save at least $1 trillion dollars in CO2 emissions worldwide. A white rooftop, for instance, reflects light back into space, leaving the building below cooler. A white road means that less heat is absorbed into the Earth than with a black road.
  • This post links to good sources and provides hard facts, but it’s really intended to be a jumping off point. The post is ultimately about how something simple like whitening roads and roofs could greatly reduce CO2 emissions for a fraction of the cost of most climate change initiatives. His post also ends with a few concerns about this idea, which help propel the conversation.
  • Many people who read The Infrastructurist are very knowledgeable about infrastructure projects, government and science (several of the commentors on this post are engineers). Users are talking about the different albedo’s of different kinds of asphalt and concrete (how much light would be reflected off of surfaces, instead of absorbed). Other users are talking about what politicians in their areas are proposing and how those ideas could help cut CO2 emissions.
  • Reed is active in the comments, mixing it up with users, spurring additional comments from users. The Infrastructurist is a blog that largely focuses on proposals and future projects, which makes it a prime candidate for community building and two-way communication. Reed has done a good job of building a community around a topic that wouldn’t seem that sexy to traditional news organizations, but makes perfect sense in 2009.

Andrew C. Revkin | The New York Times

  • Dot Earth blogger Revkin also gets this recognition for overall excellence in beatblogging. Dot Earth is a beatblog that “examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits.” It’s a blog centered around sustainability that touches on related science topics.
  • Like the Infrastructurist, Dot Earth is another very timely and modern beat. 50 years ago this beatblog would have had no chance at serious success, but with concerns about climate change and a rapidly growing population, Dot Earth is a beatblog that makes perfect sense in 2009.
  • The blog also ties in really well with other NY Times content, which is important. In the right rail users will find links to relevant energy, climate, biology and society stories from nytimes.com. Users will also find embedded science videos from nytimes.com and audio slideshows from Revkin in the right rail.
  • The Times already has a lot of good environment-related content, but Dot Earth does a nice job of tying all of this related content together with its own unique sub-community. Plus, Dot Earth mixes in original content and lots of linking to take the whole package to another level.
  • Dot Earth demonstrates why community matters. It’s a sub-community within nytimes.com and a community that appeals to a niche audience. The comments left after posts on Dot Earth are quite strong (it doesn’t hurt that the Times, unlike many publications, actually moderates comments and cares about their quality). Many people commenting on Dot Earth stories are academics, PhDs, energy workers and other knowledgeable people about sustainability, climate change and science topics.

Leaderboard for week of 4-20-2009: Pulitzer Prize edition

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 23:01 - by

The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded this week, and we thought it was appropriate to look at the lessons learned from winners and finalists.

More than any other year, this year’s Pulitzer Prizes featured journalists who were making strong use of the Internet. One of our top beatbloggers almost won an award. Unfortunately, Elliot Spitzer couldn’t keep his pants on.

Each of these winners and finalists below showcase how the Internet can help revolutionize journalism. What they were able to using databases, blogs, video, live chats, etc helped cover a major story or event better than what was possible even a few years ago. These examples demonstrate the Internet is in fact great for journalism.

Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle

  • The Houston Chronicle was a finalist for the breaking news award. The Chronicle was recognized for its outstanding Hurricane Ike coverage.
  • It’s coverage featured live, daily chats with science writer Eric Berger about the oncoming storm, continuous updates and coverage on Berger’s SciGuy blog, around the clock updates on Chron.com, information after the storm struck (including a database of which areas of Houston had power restored), a map of Ike’s damage, video reports, a dedicated “Ike’s Answers” blog and much more. It’s hard to imagine a more complete package of information and reports from a news organizations.
  • This is what the Pulitzer committee had to say about the Chronicle’s hurricane coverage, “For taking full advantage of online technology and its newsroom expertise to become a lifeline to the city when Hurricane Ike struck, providing vital minute-by-minute updates on the storm, its flood surge and its aftermath.”
  • Berger said to me in an e-mail, “during the hurricane my blog had about 3.5 million page views and the daily live chats I did drew up to 14,000 viewers each time. One of my bosses remarked that it’s not every day a science writer could fill a basketball arena. Additionally, the comments from readers during and after the storm were tremendously positive and heartwarming. I also got great feedback from the director of the National Hurricane Center and storm forecasters who got what I was trying to do in terms of translating their work into meaningful real-time information for people on the ground. So while the Pulitzer recognition for what we did is nice, I’d already received this amazing feedback from critics who matter most to me, the readers and forecasters.”

PolitiFact | The St. Petersburg Times

  • We’d like to congratulate one of the shinning beacons of Web journalism, PolitiFact on winning a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
  • Technically, PolitiFact isn’t beatblogging. Regardless, it rocks. Politifact offers a lot of strong examples for journalists and journalism organizations on how databases can improve journalism. PolitiFact is a shinning example of how getting away from the inverted pyramid and column inches can improve journalism. Plus, PolitiFact is only possible on the Web.
  • PolitiFact has forever changed how politics — especially presidential elections — will be covered. The whole site is based around the simple concept of examining the claims of politicians, pundits and lobbyists. Instead of stringing a bunch of these examinations into one, long post or story, PolitiFact breaks them up into individually searchable vignettes. The Django backbone of PolitiFact both makes the site easy to build and update, while also making it really easy to use. Bravo.
  • The prize committee recognized PolitiFact for its, “fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters. (Moved by the Board to the National Reporting category.)”
  • Neil Brown, executive editor of the St. Petersburg Times, which launched PolitiFact in August 2007, said the award was ‘proof that the Web is not a death sentence for newspapers. In fact, PolitiFact marries the power of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism with an extraordinarily powerful way to present it.'”
  • The good news for all of is that this summer they plan to expand their coverage of pundits and talk show hosts. They will also be expanding their state and local fact-checking.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • The Post-Dispatch was a breaking news finalist because of its coverage — online and in print — of a deadly city hall shooting.
  • The prize committee made the Post-Dispatch a finalist,  “for its creative and aggressive coverage, both online and in print, of a city hall shooting that left six people dead, displaying an exemplary blend of speed and rigor in its reporting.”
  • Like the Chronicle, the Post-Dispatch covered this story from a variety of angles and in a variety of mediums from videos to numerous stories to slideshows, audio interviews, a condolences blog, an interactive graphic and more.
  • Edward J. Delaney of The Nieman Lab reports that, “In the Post-Dispatch newsroom, the paper had only recently shifted to what managing editor Pam Maples called an “online first” approach. The paper had only recently integrated its online and print staffs so that “we didn’t have one of those online units sitting over in the corner.”
  • A news organization like the Post-Dispatch is uniquely positioned in the community to provide this kind of breadth and depth of coverage. Other outlets and blogs could have provided some of those coverage, but it takes an organization like the Post-Dispatch to create the complete package. This is called owning a story

Leaderboard for week of 4-13-2009: Kent Fischer memorial edition

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 12:10 - by

It’s not the best time to work for a newspaper: lay-offs, buy-outs, pay cuts and more

Against this backdrop, one of our favorite beatbloggers, Ed Silverman, left newspapers last year. His former employer, The Star-Ledger, may not survive the year. Another one of our favorite beatbloggers, Kent Fischer, announced that he’ll be leaving journalism too.

Fischer had survived several rounds of lay-offs, buy-outs and pay cuts at The Dallas Morning News but wondered how much more his employer could keep making big cuts, while still delivering a quality product. Fischer’s partner in crime on the DISD Blog, Tawnell Hobbs, will carry on the torch by herself. She’ll be expected to run the blog and be a major contributor to print.

Kent Fischer | The Dallas Morning News

  • Fischer was one of the first beatbloggers to begin hoisting comments. He realized early on that it was important to acknowledge readers when they contributed something worthwhile to the conversation. Each week Fischer has been picking a comment of the week.
  • Fischer also began accepting guest posts from community members last year. His blog is read by many insiders, and the majority of the comments left on his blog are from insiders. He wanted to tap into that network and give some of his top contributors the chance to have a bigger voice. Also, Fischer scheduled his guest posts around summer vacation, a time when education coverage is usually light. The summer is the perfect time to start discussions about bigger issues in education.
  • Fischer was one of the first journalists I studied that really got that user comments add value to a news Web site. He understood that not only are comments something that attracts users, but they can also be a great place for thoughtful debate. And they can even be a place for beat reporters to discover stories.
  • The comments left on the DISD Blog were usually quite good. Fischer took care to make sure a comment ghetto did not form. A strong comments community requires a journalist who is willing to cultivate a community. It takes a journalist who is not afraid to regularly enter the fray, and Fischer genuinely respected the opinions of his users.
  • Fischer wasn’t afraid to try anything. He said that he regularly tried new ideas and features and saw what caught on. If something didn’t catch on, he would move on to something new. It was that ethos of experimentation that really allowed Fischer to shine.
  • We’ll have more on Fischer, the lessons he learned from beatblogging and why he left journalism in a podcast later today.

Brian Krebs | The Washington Post

  • Krebs was nominated this week for using his blog to provide context to a series of print stories. He explains why the stories are worth reading, what’s new about them (the topic of cyber terrorism is not new) and he provides background and context. Krebs also provides some nitty gritty details that may be too minute for the print edition. And, as always, his blog is the perfect place to provide links to resources.
  • Krebs also did some quick checks on the Internet and found some compromised U.S. utilities. These companies have computers that were recently infected with bots and backdoors. His blog post does an excellent job of explaining what the threats are and how they could be harmful to U.S. citizens.
  • Again, it’s the comments where this post really begins to shine. Krebs has built up a knowledgeable user community. In the comments you’ll find users asking questions about how easy it is to become infected, what precautions should be taken, etc, and you’ll find other users providing detailed answers.
  • Krebs did not write the print stories he linked to, but he did provide excellent context around them. His blog post was a strong compliment to the print content his paper product.

Brian Christopherson | Lincoln Journal Star

  • Life in the Red, a joint, staff blog at the Journal Star is one of the better sports blogs we’ve seen. The beat is all things Nebraska Cornhusker related, and a team of five bloggers shares the responsibility.
  • One of the things we really like about this blog is the interaction. Sports fans are often a very passionate bunch and sometimes quite knowledgeable. They would love the chance to get to interact with sports writers they follow. On this seemingly simple post, Christopherson and users are discussing safeties for the Nebrasks football team. It all started with a simple post about redshirt freshman P.J. Smith and a quote from head coach Bo Pelini saying Smith could push for playing time with senior Larry Asante.
  • This is the kind of little nugget of information that probably wouldn’t make a good print story. Even if it were a print story (or part of a “news an notes” kind of feature) it wouldn’t be nearly the same as doing it online. Each nugget of information gets its own blog post (good for SEO and segregating conversations to individual topics). Breaking these nuggets into individual posts increases visits and comments.
  • Also, the Life in Red blog provides the perfect opportunity for beat reporters and fans to discuss minute topics like this. All of the sudden this seemingly small nugget of information becomes a launching pad for debate among writers and users.

Leaderboard for week of 4-6-2009: Sports writers strike back

Monday, April 6, 2009 23:13 - by

Last week we focused on sports writers and said that it wasn’t easy for us to find innovative, beatblogging sports reporters.

Some of you took offense to that and sent in additional nominations. It turns out that you were right; there are lots of innovative, beatblogging sports reporters (just not on the scale of their news colleagues). This week we’re back with three more, really innovative sports beat reporters.

We’re still not pleased with how many sports reporters have blogs that they aren’t using properly. The kinds of blogs with giant comment ghettos. But this week gives us hope.

This week’s Leaderboard is filled with sports reporters who get interaction, and interaction is ultimately the name of the game.

Greg Auman | St. Petersburg Times

  • Auman reminds me a lot of Ed Silverman. His individual posts don’t usually stand out, but when you take his entire body of his work, it’s when you begin to notice how he shines. He covers his beat well and harnesses the Web well. It’s the total package.
  • His beat — University of South Florida sports — lends itself well to blogging. He is an expert on all things related to sports at USF but not focused on an individual sport. His beat and his blog allow him to connect with students and alumni of the school.
  • He posts a lot of quality updates to his blog. Many of his posts serve as conversation starters for the community. And Auman, unlike many sports reporters, is active in the comments after his posts. This, unfortunately, is uncommon.
  • Auman’s tweets, however, do shine on their own. He posts little tidbits of information that may eventually become longer posts. He has created a Twitter feed that offers real value to USF sports fans, and his tweets compliment his blog perfectly.
  • I also like how Auman makes use of live chats with readers. Live chats are a great way for sports reporters in particular to connect with users.
  • Auman is the perfect combination of good sports reporting combined with more casual blog posts and a health dose of interaction.
  • The level of interaction that Auman engages in — from the comments after his blog posts to Twitter to live chats — is a level that all sports reporters should strive to achieve.

Britt Robson | Secrets of the City

  • Robson’s work covering the Minnesota Timberwolves could best be described as a combination between a basketball analyst and a blogger. His writing style lends itself well to blogging, and the way he writes and the content of his writing has helped create a niche that compliments standard sports writing.
  • One of my pet peeves with many sports reporters and columnists who have been given blogs is that they never interact with people in the comments section. And, naturally, the comments after their posts are usually incendiary, banal and don’t contribute to the conversation. In short, they have successfully created a comment ghetto by not taking ownership of the comments that appear after their comments. (I’m looking at you Cleveland.com sports writers).
  • Robson is active in the comments after his posts, and, of course, a comment ghetto has not formed. There is actual debate and discussion that occurs. It furthers the conversation and adds to the value of the blog.
  • It’s refreshing to see the quality of community that Robson has created around a professional sports team. It’s rather uncommon. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like many sports writers who cover professional sports don’t feel the need to build a community around their blog. But is it even a blog if a “blogger” wants nothing to do with the comments after his posts?

Dona Ditota | The Post-Standard

  • Ditota made the Leaderboard for her use of Twitter for sports analysis and live blogging. Rather than liveblog play-by-play for games, Ditota provides stats and analysis. She did a phenomenal job of providing live analysis and updates during the Oklahoma-Syracuse game. Her tweeting during games is the perfect compliment to other live sports coverage.
  • This tweet from Ditota mentions how OU was able to beat a zone defense by shooting well. This little tidbit of info could help sports fans understand what they are seeing.
  • It doesn’t make that much sense to just liveblog play-by-play at a major sporting event. People can get that kind of information from a variety of places — TV, iPhone apps, mobile phone video, etc — but getting succinct analysis is not easy to get. Ditota filled a niche. In fact, her coverage was the perfect compliment to watching the Oklahoma-Syracuse game live. It was also helpful for people following along on the go.
About BeatBlogging.Org

BeatBlogging.org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. BeatBlogging.org offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.